The Golden Lions made the most of home advantage after beating Griquas 34-19 in a tough Currie Cup semifinal at Ellis Park on Saturday, in the process booking their first final since 2015.
Despite leading 21-13 at the break and scoring three first-half tries, Ivan van Rooyen’s troops never really managed to run away with matters as the visitors, especially with their trade-mark rolling mauls and a strong performance at scrum-time, ensured the Lions could never quite relax.
But it was revealing how the Lions produced their best performance to date in this year’s competition while still firing on all cylinders.
That actually bodes well for next week’s climax.
Who was the star in this match?
Former Blue Bulls wing Duncan Matthews was very good at inside centre for the Lions, creating headaches on defence for Griquas throughout the game. Apart from a sniping break early in the first half, where he burst though a gaping hole in midfield, he was also the key role player in the Lions second try scored by wing Stean Pienaar when he cleverly delayed his pass to open up the space. That type of game-breaking ability could prove very useful.
Key moments and themes
- If the first quarter was any indication of what awaited spectators, the opening minutes where certainly a healthy appetiser with the Lions leading 14-7 after tries by both wings Madosh Tambwe and Pienaar while the Griquas opening try by centre Chris Smit was sandwiched between. Those scores seemed to suggest an open, free-flowing game.
- However, the second half was highly attritional as Griquas dominated possession and territory, but simply couldn’t translate that into points as the Lions produced a much-improved defensive performance. In fact, the argument could be made that the Peacock Blues seemingly neglected the strengths that brought them here, trying to attack too much instead of playing a structured game.
- That said, the Lions deserve credit for a gritty effort at scrum-time, where they managed to rekindle a traditional strength. Loosehead Sti Sithole was particularly superb at the set-piece.
- With the groundwork seemingly starting to be laid now, the Lions will be hoping to take their attacking chances better. At least three clear-cut opportunities went a begging. That’s a no-no in a final.
Golden Lions – Tries: Madosh Tambwe, Stean Pienaar, Hacjivah Dayimani, Marnus Schoeman. Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (4). Penalties: Reynolds (2).
Griquas – Try: Chris Smit. Conversion: George Whitehead. Penalties: Whitehead (4).